05/09/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Orissa, the sisters of Mother Teresa return: we must bring smiles back to the persecuted

by Nirmala Carvalho
A delegation of the Missionaries of Charity has returned to the district of Khandamal, where anti-Christian persecution broke out last Christmas. They tell AsiaNews about the mistrust of Christians toward Hindus, and insist on the importance of reconciliation.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) - Peace begins with a smile, and our population has lost this.  Now, the true mission is that of teaching these people how to smile again, after they were ravaged by senseless violence born from false interpretations of religion.  These are the remarks to AsiaNews from Sister M. Suma, regional superior of the Missionaries of Charity (MC), who last April visited the district of Khandamal, Orissa, the theatre of anti-Christian violence last Christmas.

The peace of Christ, says the religious, "will heal their deep emotional scars. With the prayers of Mother Teresa in our hearts, we were often rewarded with the sounds of laughter of the children; this was the encouragement we needed to go on.  Peace begins with a smile, and this smile can bring about unity and reconciliation between peoples. This is what our Blessed Mother Teresa always taught us. The situation in the distant remote villages is limping back to normal, but there is mistrust in the minds of the Christians against their Hindu neighbours, reconciliation will take some time".

In many of the villages affected, Mother Suma continues, "there were far too many cases of tuberculosis, asthma and malnutrition, children far too undernourished and looking emaciated. A disturbing fact we encountered in the remote villages was the feeling of distrust among the Hindus and Christians, some of our sisters would go from door to door, to see any  villagers who were too sick to walk to the camp, and more often than not, the Christian tribal accompanying us would say: 'Not that house, sister, they are Hindus'. Of course, we did not act accordingly, but we realised that the Christians have lost hope".

The sister concludes, "we want to remind everyone of what for me is the greatest legacy left by our founder: God loves the world, and he demonstrates this love through all of us.  This concept is the basis of our entire mission, and it is this that we seek to transmit to the entire world.  Now is the time to forgive, and to start living again".

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